Today's Focus

Current Goal: Automate Savings and Mortgage Paydown

1) Extra $1,100/mo. to mortgage
2) $1,000/mo. to short-term savings
3) $400/mo. to investing

Previous Goal: Eliminate Mortgage on Rental Property
Interest Rate is 5.125%!

January 1, 2019: $59,592
August 11, 2020: PAID!

Search My Frugal Miser

Saturday, September 5

My Frugal Miser - August Expenses: $7,785

I followed through in August with plans to pay off the rental property mortgage.  That means the only debt I have is on my primary residence.  This will reduce monthly expenses by $449 starting in September.  

There were a couple of other beneficial transactions last month.  The electric company decided I was "over-securitized" and refunded the deposit to my account.  I didn't have to pay a bill in August and still have a $43 credit that will be applied to the September bill.

Large Expenses

  • By far the mortgage on our home is the largest expense.  Right now I pay $1,600/month.  This will go down some next year because it currently includes a payment to make up a shortage in my escrow account.
  • I paid $300 to renew two types of termite protection on the Airbnb.  I had to have it tented when I purchased it in 2014 so this coverage protects me should there be another infestation.
  • We had a lot of "fun" last month.  Early in the month I went to Tunica for a few days and lost at blackjack.  We have also been doing mini-getaways.  In August we visited Boca Raton, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Naples and Atlanta.  Hotel stays are included here but fortunately rates are really low.  I was able to take advantage of Hilton's price match guarantee for three separate bookings.  While I was booking a price-match room with Hilton I was offered bonus points to listen to an offer from Hilton Grand Vacations.  I decided to take advantage of the offer for a Hawaiian vacation, so the deposit for that is included as well.   In all, I took 5 trips and paid for a sixth, all for $1,800.

Everything Else

Rental property expenses were more than $1,000.  When a new tenant moves into one of my managed properties I have to pay a leasing fee to the management fee.  My largest rental property rented in July and the $700 leasing fee was billed to me last month.

August Business Spending:  $2,497
August Personal Spending:  $5,288

August Expenses:  $7,785

$447 Auto (service, gas, insurance, AAA, etc.)
$85 Bank Fees
$0 Clothing/ Personal Care
$1,818 Fun (vacations movies, gambling, alcohol, concert tickets)
$688 Food
$406 Health and Dental
$1,640 Household/Mortgage Payment/Home Repair
$0 Interest Expense
$38 Miscellaneous
$100 Taxes includes quarterly tax payments
$6 App Jobs Expenses (tolls, car washes, etc.)
$0 Unreimbursed Job Expenses
$0 Reimbursed Job Expenses
$65 Utilities
$1,382 Rental Property Expenses
$1,108 AirBNB Expenses

Thursday, September 3

My Frugal Miser - August Income: $10,967

 August income was down from July.  Fortunately I still earned more than I spent by about $3,000.

I didn't work any meetings.  I was paid for some merchandising work I did in July.  App-based income has declined every month since peaking during the quarantine.  People aren't ordering delivery as much now that they can go out and pickup their own food.  Amazon work has picked up a bit.

Bookings at the Airbnb have slowed down.  There were 9 days last month where the house sat empty.  I lowered rates for September which has helped with some early bookings.  

I collected rent from all 3 Birmingham rental properties.  I also received a quarterly dividend from three of the apartment investments I have at Realty Mogul: $425 from one and $823 and $175 on two owned by my retirement account.  I don't include transactions from my retirement accounts in the monthly figures but thought it was worth noting the amount.

August Income: $10,967

$43 Mystery Shopping/ Merchandising
$0 Meeting Jobs
$590 Gig Apps (Rideshare, Food Deliveries, etc.)
$1,854 Amazon Deliveries
$3,441 Rental Income
$3,225 Airbnb Income
$22 Interest Income
$1,793 Other Sources

Investment Accounts Change in Value:  $14,942

My investment accounts improved nicely.  My largest position is in Vereit, and shares were up in August.

Tuesday, September 1

My Next Financial Goals

 This month I am embarking on a new set of financial goals:

  • Pay an extra $1,100/month on my home mortgage.  This will eliminate $1/week in interest expense.  My mortgage rate, 4.75%, is 50% higher than prevailing rates.  I tried to refinance, but the defective underwriting process finds I don't earn enough money to pay a less-expensive mortgage.  No irony there!
  • Transfer $1,000/month to investable savings.  I have designated a savings account for funding investments.  This can include making improvements to the Airbnb or rental properties, investing in new opportunities, or for anything else that can increase my recurring monthly income.
  • Transfer $400/month to my brokerage account.  The last several years were focused on debt reduction.  It's time to start increasing my nest egg.
At first glance these sound like "softball" goals.  All I am doing is committing to moving money around.  In reality, I am committing to earning enough income to achieve these goals.  If I am falling short, I will have to earn more income to make up the shortfall or cut something like a vacation or unneeded expense.  

This is just the start!  I'm going to monitor my progress.  If the goals are too easy, I will adjust them.  Since I am committing $2,500/month towards this, I think it will be a big enough goal to motivate me to work harder but not so big as to discourage me.

Friday, August 14

Opportunities for Cheap Travel Are Everywhere Right Now

 I've always been one to seize an opportunity.  During the housing crisis I bought foreclosures.  When the pandemic caused a temporary but hefty drops in stocks, I bought shares of Vereit for $4 (currently in the $6.50ish range, but I'm holding onto them).

The "current" opportunity seems to be in travel.  We've taken several mini-getaways recently.  This week we visited Fort Myers, FL.  Here's the details:

  • I looked on Expedia to get an idea of hotel prices and noticed several nice hotels with rates under $100.  I found a Hilton Garden Inn for $73.  I normally book directly with the hotel website because I want to earn loyalty points for my stay, but the same room there was $89.  "Hmmm..." I thought, "I wonder if they do a price match guarantee."  A quick Google search confirmed:  Hilton not only matches the price, but offers 25% off the lowest competitor's price.   There were two routes I could take to get the match:  fill out a form within 24 hours of booking, or call Hilton to get the price match at the time of booking.  Not wanting any drama, I opted to call to lock in the price right away.  The call was a bit painful:  I was on hold for 28 minutes, then the first agent said Expedia listed the room as "Deluxe" while the hotel website did not include "Deluxe" in the room description.  Frustrated, I asked to be transferred to someone else.  This strategy worked, as the second agent was able to honor the guarantee.  Bottom line:  we reserved a room at the Hilton Garden Inn, including a free cooked-to-order hot breakfast, for $54.
  • We wanted to visit the beach and the Edison-Ford Winter Estates.  I found beach parking online for $2/hour.  That sure beats the typical $25 price of parking on Clearwater Beach!  Our membership to the Sunken Gardens in St. Pete includes reciprocal privileges at other places, and Edison-Ford was on the list.
  • For food, Doordash has a summer promotion for Dashpass members.  My Chase Sapphire Reserve card includes a free subscription to Dashpass.  This week's promotion is BOGO free entree at Chipotle.  There happened to be a Chipotle across the street from our hotel, so we picked up our dinner there and enjoyed it in our room.
This quick 2 day getaway ended up costing us less than $100.

Our Strategy for Travel Deals

We plan to do more short getaways in the coming months.

  • I predict that fall hotel rates will remain low (or will go even lower than now).  As PPP funds run out, hotels are going to be competing for a smaller number of travelers.  Business travel is virtually non-existent, and leisure travel is always light after Labor Day.  Our strategy is to search for business-class hotels in areas that typically rely on business travel.  For example, hotels near airports are still a short drive to the activities we want to do, but will be the properties most affected by lighter business travel.  
  • Mid-week travel should be the most affordable, as evidenced by the bookings we are receiving at the Airbnb.  Lately, weekends at our rental have been booking at higher rates than last year.  Mid-week I have had to drop rates to keep the house occupied.
  • Right now it usually makes more sense to pay cash rather than redeem points.  Rates are so low now that there's more value in saving my loyalty points when they will be worth more.  Besides, our cash helps hotels more than our points.
  • We are favoring outdoor activities since they "feel" safer during a pandemic.  Many of these excursions are super affordable.  Hiking, swimming at the beach, and visiting botanical gardens are great ways to get exercise while breathing in fresh air and distancing from others.
Have you found deals for frugal travel?